At the annual Gridiron Dinner in March, President Obama took note of complaints of limited press access to himself by announcing the following (purportedly in jest, as is this occasion’s tradition):
“‘Some of you have said that I’m ignoring the Washington press corps – that we’re too controlling,’ Obama said.’You know what, you were right. I was wrong, and I want to apologize in a video you can watch exclusively at whitehouse.gov.’
Continued the AP: “Three days later, it was no laughing matter when the White House live-streamed on the Internet Obama’s meeting with his export council and allowed just one reporter in the room.”
During my decades as a White House correspondent, the ablest and fairest of all White House press secretaries whom I covered was Mike McCurry, who served President Bill Clinton.
Mike told the AP in an interview he sees an inclination by the Obama White House to “self-publish,” coupled with tactics “I never would have dreamed of in terms of restricting access” for independent news organizations.
“What gets lost are those revealing moments when the president’s held accountable by the representatives of the public who are there in the form of the media,” McCurry said.
Another of the best White House press secretaries I covered was George Bush aide Ari Fleischer. He is quoted as saying:
“Something is missing when the administration’s feet are not held to the fire in certain settings.”
From the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Annenberg Public Policy Center Director Kathleen Hall Jameson, the following:
“When viewers choose the White House as their news source, what people are being exposed to is highly selective. They’re not getting the balance of alternative points of view. They’re not getting the criticism that asks, ‘Is this accurate?’ It’s not being put in historical context.”
The AP also reported:
- “When defeated presidential candidate Mitt Romney met with Obama for lunch in the White House after the 2012 election, there was no press access. The only photo was a White ouseHouseHouse handout that House handout that showed the two men talking in the Oval Office, clearly on the president’s turf.”
- “When the president got complaints that his live-streamed meeting with his export council was open to just one reporter, Press Secretary Jay Carney responded: ‘Everyone in America with electricity and a computer could see it.’ That’s true, but the lone White House camera offered just one view.”
- “‘There’s no question that he’s opening and closing the door at his choice,’ says Gerald Shuster, a professor of political communication at the University of Pittsburgh. ‘He’s controlling the flow as much as he can.’”
- “‘It’s all about control,’ says Eric Dezenhall, an image consultant who has worked for years with politicians, celebrities and business people. ‘Why put your CEO on “60 Minutes” when he can record something that appears on the corporate website? That way he can’t be accused of not commenting but he doesn’t have to stand up to the withering scrutiny you might face in an investigative TV show.’”
This, ladies and gentlemen, is an excellent exposé of the Obama White House’s ill treatment and evasion of the media.
It was reported despite the fact that AP’s senior White House correspondent is always given the first question at every presidential news conference and at every daily White House news briefing by the press secretary.
It is hard for me to remember any AP White House correspondent who raised as many hard questions about the Obama administration as this AP story does. It exposed highly questionable Obama treatment of his closest coverers from the nation’s Fourth Estate.